Book of Mormon/Plagiarism accusations/Comoros Islands and Moroni

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    Did Joseph Smith obtain the names Cumorah and Moroni from a map of the Comoros Islands?

Questions


Comoros is a small nation made up of three islands off the southeast coast of Africa. Its capital city is Moroni.

  • Some have claimed that Joseph Smith created the Book of Mormon names Cumorah and Moroni by copying them from a map of the Comoros islands.
  • An alternative explanation offered by critics of the Book of Mormon is that Joseph Smith found the names Cumorah and Moroni in stories about Captain Kidd, who is said to have visited the island.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Answer


That settlement of "Moroni" did not become the capital city of the Comoros Islands until 1876 (32 years after Joseph's death and 47 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon). The possibility of Joseph seeing the names on a map is remote at best. It has not even been proved that Joseph ever saw the names, or that any source available to him linked them.

Those who propose that Joseph obtained the names from stories of Captain Kidd fail to cite any sources or demonstrate that Joseph had access to them.

Furthermore, focusing on two names in an obscure reference work does nothing to explain the incredible complexity and internal consistency of the Book of Mormon.

Detailed Analysis

Modern map of the Comoros Islands
1830 Book of Mormon showing the spelling "Camorah"

This claim, like many efforts to explain away the Book of Mormon, commits the logical fallacy of the Appeal to probability. This fallacy argues that because something is even remotely possible, it must be true. Typically, those that that claim that Camora and Moroni were "common names in pirate and treasure hunting stories involving Captain William Kidd," do not cite a single source supporting their assertion that can be checked.

Pointing out a possible relationship like Comoros = Cumorah and Moroni = Moroni is not sufficient.

When the facts are examined, even the possibility of Joseph seeing Comoros and Moroni recedes; the idea becomes unworkable. The following gazetteers from Joseph's era were consulted:

Title Relevant Contents
Mucullock's Universal Gazateer, 2 vols (1843-4)

2257 pages of double columned miniscule print, with no reference to Comoros Islands or Moroni.

Morris' Universal Gazateer (1821) 831 pages, no mention of Comoros or Moroni

Brookes Gazateer

  • 1794 edition


  • Comora on p. 400, no mention of Moroni
  • 1819 edition
  • Comora, no mention of Moroni
  • 1835 edition
  • Comoro on p. 214, no mention of Moroni
  • 1843 edition
  • Comoro, no mention of Moroni

There is no evidence that Joseph saw these maps, or any other, but if he had they would have provided little help.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that any source would have contained the name of "Moroni." That settlement did not become the capital city until 1876 (32 years after Joseph's death and 47 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon), when Sultan Sa'id Ali settled there. At that time it was only a small settlement. Even a century later, in 1958, its population was only 6500.

The spelling of "Cumorah" as "Camorah" in the 1830 Book of Mormon

The 1830 Book of Mormon uses the spelling "Camorah." Oliver Cowdery stated that this was a spelling error in the July 1835 issue of the Latter Day Saint's Messenger and Advocate. Oliver Cowdery states:

By turning to the 529th and 530th pages of the book of Mormon you will read Mormon's account of the last great struggle of his people, as they were encamped round this hill Cumorah. (It is printed Camorah, which is an error.)

The spelling was corrected to "Cumorah" in the 1837 reprint of the Book of Mormon. This makes it consistent with other Nephite names with the suffix "-cum" (for example, Teancum). There are no Nephite names which contain the suffix "-cam."

Trivia

In an episode of the TV game show Jeopardy, host Alex Trebek gave the answer, "Pronounced one way, it is the capitol of the Comoros Islands; pronounced another way, it is the name of the angel that appeared to Joseph Smith." (The question, of course, was "What is Moroni?")

References

  • Wikipedia entry on Comoros off-site
  • Wikipedia entry on Moroni, Comoros off-site
  • Entry on "Comoros" in the CIA World Factbook off-site
  • Barbara Dubins, "Nineteenth-century Travel Literature on the Comoro Islands: A Bibliographical Essay", African Studies Bulletin 12. 2 (September 1969): 138-46. It can be found on JSTOR http://www.jstor.org/stable/523156

For further information related to this topic


The Interpreter Foundation responds to these questions

Benjamin L. McGuire,"Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms, Part One", Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2013)


Additionally the capitol city Moroni has not yet been found on any early map showing the Comoro Islands. Grunder notes in his discussion of the first map that “the Encyclopædia Britannica records volcanic eruptions beginning in 1830 on the island of Great Comoro (Grande Comore) where Maroni, the capitol of this territory (not shown on the map discussed here or on other period maps which I have examined), is located (Encyclopædia Britannica eleventh [Page 58]ed., 6:794–95, ‘Comoro Islands’)” (2008, p. 63). More recently, Mike Reed located an eighteenth century map of Anjouan, one of the Comoro islands, with an indicated anchorage identified as Meroni. Although this is adjacent to an entirely different island than the one with the city Moroni, it does demonstrate that if all we are concerned with is identifying homonyms, eventually we will find what we are looking for.74


The interesting corollary is that while we find this rather small location indicated on this map, the present day capitol of Comoro, Moroni, has yet to be found on any maps contemporary with the publication of the Book of Mormon, and while this isn’t a guarantee that it won’t be found (it wouldn’t surprise me if it were), it does indicate that its importance was far less than it is today.
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